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The NBA in Europe: Milan and the NBA make a great fit together

Milan is a fashion capital of Europe, and the NBA’s players like fashion. This sounds like a great combination to me.

Tommy Hilfiger Preppy Pop Up House Opening Cocktail - Milan Fashion Week Menswear S/S 2012 Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger

Over the past month, we talked about a hypothetical NBA European Division. Here are the cities and links to the city profiles:

This week, we’ll head to Milan, which isn’t the capital of Italy. But it is one of the fashion capitals of the world, which fits in quite nicely with the NBA.

On Milan

A slide showing some facts about Milan, Italy

Milan is the second largest city in Italy, and also has one of the largest metropolitan areas in the European Union. It is also known as Italy’s business and cultural capital where it houses the Italy Stock Exchange and also hosts some major fashion shows that have worldwide recognition.

Like many of the other cities who are part of this division, classical art is in abundance. Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is located in side the Santa Maria delle Grazie, or the Church of Holy Mary Grace in Italian. da Vinci also painted the Mona Lisa, but you’ll find it in another city in this division which I didn’t get to yet.

Does the NBA invest in Italy?

Boston Celtics v EA7 Emporio Armani Milano Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

Yes, the league has an official site in Italian but that’s not all of course. In addition, the NBA has hosted games in Milan. The Celtics played preseason friendlies againgst Olimpia Milano on October 6, 2015 and also earlier in 2012. Olimpia is one of Europe’s top basketball teams, as they won three EuroLeague championships and 26 in the Italian premier division. Olimpia will certainly be an in-sport rival of sorts with a Milan NBA team, since I’m assuming that the NBA will not buy any existing clubs.

Who are the best players in the NBA from Italy?

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Eight NBA players were born in Italy. No one player stands out head and shoulders, but I’m going to lean toward Andrea Bargnani as their most accomplished player. Bargnani was Italy’s first number-one pick in an NBA Draft back in 2006, where he played for the Raptors (2006-13), Knicks (2013-15), and the Nets this past season. Bargnani averaged 14.3 points over the course of a decade.

In the next few years, I think Danilo Gallinari will be the most accomplished. He was the 6th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and played for the Knicks (2008-2011) and the Nuggets (2011-present). He averaged just a shade under 15 points a game in his career. And you can’t forget about Marco Belinelli, the guy who beat Bradley Beal in the three point shooting contest in 2014. He averaged 9.5 points a game in a journeyman career with the Warriors, Raptors, Hornets, Bulls, Spurs, Kings, and now the Hornets.

And though he isn’t an Italian citizen, Kobe Bryant lived in Italy between 1984 and 1991 when he was a child because his father played in Italy during those years. Along the way, he learned to speak Italian and also became a big A.C. Milan fan. Maybe you could call Bryant Italy’s first true NBA star.

Besides Olimpia, what soccer teams would an NBA team have to compete against for attention?

AC Milan v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The Italian Premier Division is Serie A which is known as one of the top leagues in Europe, right with the Premier League in the UK/England, the Bundesliga in Germany, and La Liga in Spain.

There are multiple Serie A teams in the city. One is A.C. Milan. They are one of Europe’s most well-known teams and have won the UEFA Champions League/European Cup seven times — more than every other team except Real Madrid in Spain. Their most recent Champions League title was in 2006-07. The other is Internationale Milano, or Inter Milan. They are also one of Europe’s top have won three UEFA Champions League/European Cup titles, most recently in 2010. As you might have guessed, they A.C. Milan and Inter Milan are arch rivals, and they also share a huge rivalry with Turin-based Juventus.

Though soccer is the top sport in town, it doesn’t mean that basketball is irrelevant. For some perspective, the NBA is relevant in the United States despite the fact that American football the NFL is the most popular professional sports league in the country.

Final thoughts

Milan is a great sports town with an established basketball fanbase. It is also a great city to visit in general.

Finally, I didn’t talk too much about this aspect specifically, but I think Milan’s reputation as Europe’s fashion capital can fit quite nicely with the NBA. Many current NBA players are known for their wardrobes (like Russell Westbrook for example) and basketball fashion on and off the court does trickle to the mainstream. It just feels like a natural fit to me in that regard.

In a city like Los Angeles, you often find many of the top acting celebrities and socialites attending Lakers (and more recently Clippers) games. In Milan, I won’t be surprised to see many of Europe’s top models and fashion designers as well. Basketball games would be a better opportunity to get noticed as fans than soccer games.

Next week, we’ll finish the European NBA division series by going to Paris, France.